Book Reviews: June 2007

Out There Outdoors

Pilates for the Outdoor Athlete
Lauri Ann Stricker
Fulcrum Publishing, 2007, 248 pages.

Pilates for the Outdoor Athlete by Lauri Ann Stricker is a comprehensive book designed to help the outdoor enthusiast achieve better body symmetry and stay free from injury. Stricker breaks down each outdoor sport from rock climbing to kayaking and points to the muscles that often get overused and lists those that remain weak. The goal is to create uniform muscle balance, this in turn will relieve undue stress on the joints. Stricker outlines an exercise program designed to prevent unforeseen problems and create balance in the body.

Most of these Pilates exercises are classified into three levels: beginner, intermediate, and advanced with two programs assigned for every sport. Detailed descriptions of the exercises and pictures help guide you through the programs. She points out several tips to avoid injury and specific muscles that need to be strengthened and stretched.

My biggest concern is that there are not a lot of modifications for each exercise. Since Stricker is specifically trying to target areas of weakness, caution should be advised. Weak muscles are just that, weak; and other muscle groups tend to take over. Most athletes have learned to work through pain so an understanding of exactly how each exercise is supposed to feel and what to watch for is important. The overall goal is to improve body symmetry and alignment, something that is not obtained in a few Pilates sessions but achieved over a greater period of time and commitment.

Overall Stricker adheres to the basic principals of Pilates which is breathing, centering, concentration, control, fluid motion and precision. A self-assessment quiz proposes some highly poignant questions to athletes about how they train and how they push themselves. This book serves as a guide to overcoming obstacles related to training and overuse injuries. Stricker does point out that private training and a proper evaluation from a trained Pilates instructor is going to get the best results.

Maria Sevilla


Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations
David R. Montgomery
University of California Press, 2007, 285 pages.

A new voice for the planet and its inhabitants has emerged. David Montgomery a geomorphologist (one who studies the formation and transformation of the earth’s geological features) and Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences at the University of Washington first gained recognition among the environmental science community through his popular science treatise on the demise of wild salmon in King of Fish: The Thousand Year Run of Salmon.

Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations explores the stabilizing impact of agriculture on human civilization; non-nomadic society demands agriculture to feed itself. Citing extensive research (the bibliography contains nearly 300 references) into past civilizations and their agriculture, Montgomery chronicles example after example of the rise and fall of agricultural societies over the last 10,000 years of human habitation on the planet. His central conclusion: while many factors contribute to the demise of human civil structures, “The history of dirt suggests that how people treat their soil can impose a lifespan on civilizations.”

Though a thorough examination of historic agricultural practices Montgomery discovered that transition from small -scale, labor -intensive agriculture increases soil erosion by a factor of ten. Conversely, the ancient Roman method of cultura promiscua (growing a multistory canopy of olives, grapes, cereals, and fodder crops on the same plot) reduces erosion and maintains soil fertility.

A proponent of small-scale agriculture, organic farming, and local farmers markets, Montgomery makes us wonder if this planet earth with its thin skin of soil can sustain the six billion people now inhabiting it. This will be a special challenge since in the past sustainable farming required about five acres per household; we in most of North America think five acres an acceptable lot size for single-family dwellings

Montgomery closes noting that, “Extending the lifetime of our civilization will require reshaping agriculture to respect the soil not as an input to an industrial process, but as the living foundation for material wealth.” We should all heed this plea.

Stan Miller


Spokane Trail Guide #1 & #2
North Idaho Trail Guide #2
Rich Leon & The Upper Columbia River Group
Sierra Club, 2007 Revised Editions, 59,54, 63 pages.

True to the Sierra Club’s mission printed prominently on the inside cover-to explore, enjoy, and preserve the nation’s forests, waters, wildlife, and wilderness-the hikes in these three little booklets are a terrific resource for launching your own explorations of the Inland Northwest’s treasured wild places.

If you already own a copy or two of these guides, the Spokane Trail Guide #1 and #2 have been updated and revised along with the North Idaho Trail Guide, so it may be time to recycle your old, trail worn copies. These new beauties come with Rich Leon’s striking camera work displayed in full color on the cover of each. Don’t, however, expect a major overhaul of the classic Club guides that have been available around town for years. If you’re new to these guides and are looking for a comprehensive guidebook with maps and detailed mile-by-mile route descriptions, you’ll have to look elsewhere and expect to pay more. What you’ll get here is a rustic, grassrootsy introduction to both lesser-known and classic hikes the region has to offer for about the price of a freeze-dried backpacking meal ($7 each), which makes it well worth keeping copies of one or all three stashed in your glove box or day pack.

The Sierra Club trilogy of booklets range from hikes on the edge of Spokane and Coeur d’Alene to wilderness quality walks in the Selkirks, Kettle Range, Blue Mountains and the Eastern Washington scablands, some of which I have never seen in any other guidebooks for the region. The common thread that holds all of the hikes together is their tremendous value as wild sanctuaries for both people and wildlife as our region continues to confront rapid development and fragmentation of what once seemed like endless open space and wilderness here in Northeast Washington and North Idaho. Get out there and explore, enjoy and then help preserve these precious lands.

Derrick Knowles

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